New study examines pathways into poverty for LGBTQ adults

A new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law provides an exploration of common pathways into and prolonging poverty among a diverse population of low-income LGBTQ people in California.

An analysis of interviews with 93 low-income LGBTQ people in Los Angeles County and Kern County revealed common entry points into poverty, including childhood poverty and anti-LGBT bias. In addition, findings showed some factors exacerbate poverty differently among racial groups, as well as by sexual orientation and gender identity. In particular, childhood poverty was more common for low-income LGBTQ people who were Black, American Indian, and Latinx.

“It is significant that the majority of LGBTQ people in our study first experienced poverty during childhood,” said lead study author Bianca D.M. Wilson, Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “This indicates that one of the most effective ways to address LGBTQ poverty may be to target economic instability in families and communities rather than focusing only on LGBTQ adolescents and queer adults.”

Key Findings

  • Childhood poverty is a key pathway into adult poverty among LGBTQ people.
    • Three-quarters of study participants (73%) reported experiences of economic insecurity when they were children.
  • Race/ethnicity was a key factor in distinguishing who experienced childhood poverty.
    • At least 80% of American Indian, Black, and Latinx respondents reported economic insecurity as children, compared to 50% of White and Asian Pacific Islander respondents.
  • Pathways into poverty for LGBTQ respondents who did not grow up in poverty include anti-LGBTQ family rejection, mental health issues and/or substance use issues.
  • Lower educational attainment, low wage jobs, psychological stress, parenting challenges, and/or barriers to adequate services were common factors contributing to economic insecurity among all LGBTQ respondents.
  • Anti-LGBT discrimination encountered as adults affected many participants.

“Past research has shown that cisgender gay and bisexual men as a group tend to experience lower rates of poverty than other LGBTQ subgroups,” said study author M.V. Lee Badgett, Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Williams Institute. “However, this study underscores the unique and significant challenges cisgender gay and bisexual men who are experiencing poverty face in order to survive.”

This report is part of a larger study called the Pathways to Justice Project, which aims to understand the experiences of LGBTQ adults living in poverty and the community and policy actions needed to improve their lives. Previous reports from the Pathways Project include LGBT Poverty in the United States, State Profiles of LGBT Poverty in the United States, and “We’re Still Hungry”: Lived Experiences with Food Insecurity and Food Programs Among LGBTQ People.

Read the report

September 30, 2020

Media Contact: Rachel Dowd
Office: 310-206-8982

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